Can you imagine if an alien came to earth to observe humans? What would they think about how we live? They might be surprised at our technology, fascination with social media and reality TV, or perhaps how much we cheer for our favorite sport teams. There's no doubt that humans and all our societal quirks would be fascinating to aliens.
But what about how and why we work? The alien might be surprised that we don't live very long. And with the short 70-80 years that we have on earth, on average, we spend a large majority of that time working. The aliens might be ok with that part, but they could be surprised that many humans spend so much of their time working for managers who don't appreciate them and organizations who don't treat them very well.
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes, even if they belong to an alien, to see how things really are. We can get so used to our work situations, even if they are less than ideal, that we forget that there can be a better way to work. A look in the thesaurus can also help show us what our work habits are really like. Synonyms for employee are servant, cog, or slave; manager is also used as slavedriver, boss, or zookeeper; and work synonyms are daily grind or struggle. Put that all together and we are all cogs working for a slavedriver going about our daily drudgery.
Why does it matter what a hypothetical alien thinks of how we work? It all comes down to a fresh perspective and changing how we think about things. After decades of the same situations being drilled into our minds, the way we think about work, employees, and managers is a little backwards. Now is the time to take charge and redefine what these words mean inside your company. But how do you go about changing things that have been cemented in our minds for so long? Try these three ideas:
1. Lead by example. It can be overwhelming for an employee to try to make such a big change in an organization, but managers and executives can lead the way. The best way to change the mindset of an organization isn't to put out a memo, but to lead by example. If you want to redefine what a manager is, start by being that kind of manager. Be open with employees, offer good feedback, and make yourself available. As you follow your own definition, your actions will likely spread to others.
2. Be positive. One of the reasons so many people don't enjoy their jobs is because many workplaces have become breeding grounds for negativity. It's easy to complain about difficult co-workers, customers, or assignments. Instead, try to find the positive. It may be hard at first, but doing so will change your attitude about work, which can spread throughout the organization. Soon, even simple everyday tasks can be viewed positively instead of being a drudgery.
3. Change the mission. Much of how an organization operates comes from its mission, goals, and culture. By changing or adjusting the mission of a company, the way managers and employees think about themselves and their work can also change. Many companies have had success in this area by putting together a group of employees from all areas and levels to reevaluate how the company is performing and treating its employees. With a variety of feedback, the company can see how it needs to adjust its mission to change the definition of work and ensure happier employees.
Looking at how we work from an outsider's perspective, even if that is from an alien's point of view, can open our eyes to flaws in our established views and systems. Take a minute to step back, re-evaluate, and redefine work at your organization.
To learn more why we need to change how we think about work, watch this video.